Thursday, December 8, 2016


I can’t help but think of Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus when I ask you this rhetorical question: What if I told you that it’s possible to have a store that has no checkout counters nor cashiers?

What if I told you that in this store, shoppers can just walk in, grab an item or two from the shelves, then walk straight out and have their purchases paid for the moment they exit the door? A decade or so ago, that story would have been greeted with skepticism and consigned into the world of fantastical science fiction. But now is now.

Now, according to CNet, powerhouse online retailer Amazon is making that flight of fancy a reality, or at the very least they’re testing to see if it’ll really work long-term. This in encapsulated in Amazon go, a retail store in the real world, with a wide variety of food products including packaged fresh produce, that customers can simply enter and pick up then leave without bothering with long lines. That’s pretty much the promise of the pilot Amazon Go store in Seattle, and it’s powered by what Amazon cheekily refers to as “just walk out technology”, a sendup to shoplifting. But this is not.

The way Amazon Go is proposed to work is that shoppers who want to give it a try must be carrying a smartphone or other digital gadget with an Amazon Go mobile app installed. They simply swipe their apps on the entry turnstiles to register themselves as customers to the store’s intricate computer system, a meticulous amalgamation of advances in computer vision through surveillance cameras, deep-thinking algorithms and learning software, all to process the managing of the store’s inventory, tracking the purchase choices of finicky customers, and of course electronically ringing up their purchases when the shoppers walk out the door.

And it all comes down together into an efficient and borderline uncanny competent system that really can do away with human presence. Through the store cameras the Amazon Go network can list up all items the shopper has picked up, reflected and updated on their mobile apps. By checking against inventory the system can add an item to a customer’s purchase list when they pick it up, remove it when they put it back, then re-list it if they should come back for the thing later. Anyway, one the shopper’s done and walks through the doors the system finalizes their purchases on the app and charges the customer through their Amazon account, paid for in the usual Amazon fashion.

While the trial store in Seattle is so far for Amazon employee use only, rest assured that the online giant means to make Amazon Go a national fixture for all, starting this early 2017.

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